How to Deal with a Sexless Marriage (as a Woman)

Last updated on: Feb 15, 2024

How much sex are married couples actually having?

A poll conducted by Global News revealed that nearly one in five Canadians report having little to no sexual activity with their partners. This trend peaks in Alberta with 27% and is least prevalent in Quebec at 10%.

What counts as a 'sexless marriage'?

“Sexless" can mean a few different things: absolutely no sexual activity or physical intimacy at all, sex that happens rarely (less than 10 times a year), or lack of physical or emotional satisfaction if and when sex happens.

It's not about hitting some 'ideal' number of intimate moments — what works for one couple might not work for another, and that's perfectly okay.

It's completely normal to have periods where intimacy takes a back seat, but that doesn't mean your relationship is off-track. If you still feel that strong emotional connection, seen and appreciated by your partner in different ways, then you're doing just fine.

Sex vs Intimacy

If you’re worried about the absence of sex, there’s usually a lack of intimacy, too. Intimacy is a broad term that captures the closeness and connection between people.

  • Physical Intimacy involves the physical expressions of affection, which can range from holding hands and cuddling to kissing and sexual activity.
  • Emotional Intimacy allows you to be fully yourself, sharing fears, hopes, and dreams, and feeling supported and understood in return.

Tropes, Stereotypes and Gender Roles

Gender norms and expectations about sex and intimacy put pressure on both women and men. The myth that men always have a higher libido shames women for having more sexual desire than their male partners, and perpetuates the hurtful notion that if a man isn’t craving sex constantly, then there must be something wrong with his partner.

There’s a trope that marriage inevitably leads to a non-existent sex life. While yes, there can be a decrease in sex after marriage, but this change is from life’s changing demands as we get older — navigating illness, pregnancy and raising children, and stressors like increased work and financial responsibilities and caring for aging parents. These factors are just a part of life.

Common Causes of a Sexless Marriage

Don’t rush to the conclusion that your decreased sex life is due to infidelity because your partner is no longer attracted to you. 

There’s a trope that marriage inevitably leads to a non-existent sex life. While yes, there can be a decrease in sex after marriage, but this change is from life’s changing demands as we get older — navigating illness, pregnancy and raising children, and stressors like increased work and financial responsibilities and caring for aging parents. These factors are just a part of life.

There are many reasons, both physical and emotional, that have nothing to do with your attractiveness as a partner, including:

  • Physical or Mental Illness: You or your partner may be living with symptoms that make it difficult to get in the mood, or undergoing treatments that can impair your sex life.Insert link to therapists that specialize in chronic illness
  • Sleep Deprivation: Think of your brain like a battery: without enough sleep, you're running on low power – making the idea of sex less appealing. Link to therapists that specialize in sleep problems
  • Medications: Meds for depression, high blood pressure, or even birth control, can have a sneaky side effect: they dial down your sex drive. If you've noticed a change, it might be worth a chat with your doctor. Insert link to article about medications that lower sex drive
  • Self-esteem and Body Image Issues: Feeling inadequate, ugly, or unattractive can create a big mental block to feeling sexy or wanting to be close.Insert link to therapists that specialize in self esteem and body image
  • Life Transitions: Big life changes — moving, new jobs, or adding to your family — can throw your routine and your libido out of whack. Suddenly, there's so much newness or stress that intimacy takes a back seat.Insert link to therapists that specialize in life transitions

Navigating a decrease in sexual desire can be complex, but it’s more often than not connected to issues beyond your relationship.

What is Sex Therapy and How Can It Help Your Relationship?

Sex therapy focuses on improving communication, exploring intimacy-related issues, and rediscovering sexual desire. Through individual and/or couples therapy sessions, sex therapists can help you develop strategies to enhance intimacy and overcome obstacles in your relationship.

Couples Therapy

Seeing a sex therapist as a couple can offer a multitude of benefits for couples looking to improve their intimacy and communication. Here’s how they can help:

  • A therapist can prevent conversations from becoming repetitive and unproductive, guiding you towards meaningful progress.
  • By ensuring partners with differing communication styles find common ground, therapists can make sure both individuals feel understood and valued.
  • A therapist can encourage an "us versus the problem" approach and help couples avoid the pitfalls of a "me versus you" mindset.

Simply attending therapy together serves as a powerful statement of your dedication to each other and the relationship, showing a mutual desire to reconnect and strengthen your bond. It can also help you cultivate physical and emotional intimacy while working through any blocks to your sex life.

Individual Therapy

Seeing a therapist on your own can be a powerful step in navigating the challenges of a sexless marriage. Here's how it can help you:

  • Validating Your Feelings: a therapist can affirm that your emotions — whether it's frustration, sadness, or confusion—is completely natural and deserves attention.
  • Clarifying 'Normal': A therapist can provide perspective on what 'normal' looks like in terms of sexual activity, helping you see where yours fits in the spectrum.
  • Differentiating Thoughts: A therapist can guide you in distinguishing between anxious ruminating and realistic concerns and expectations, giving you a clearer, more balanced view.
  • Processing Secondary Emotions: Dealing with a sexless marriage can bring up feelings of shame or low self-esteem. Therapy offers a safe space to work through these emotions, understand their roots, and start healing.
  • Improving Communication Skills: Lastly, a therapist can equip you with strategies to effectively communicate your needs and feelings to your partner.

By working with a therapist, you can gain insights and tools not just to cope with the current situation but to actively improve your relationship and personal well-being.

Communicating Effectively with Your Partner

One of the most important aspects of dealing with a sexless marriage is open and honest communication with your partner. Discussing concerns about your sex life is tricky, especially if it's been on your mind for a while. You may get emotional, since it means more to you than just a lack of sex. Bringing it up might trigger strong emotions in your partner, leading to defensiveness or shutting down.

When discussing sensitive topics such as intimacy, it is crucial to approach the conversation with empathy and understanding. Use "I" statements to express your emotions and avoid placing blame on your partner.

In some cases, your partner may be unaware of the extent of your frustration or may hesitate to address the issue head-on. It’s possible that your partner may have their own fears or insecurities that are preventing them from addressing the issue. Remember, change takes time, and it is essential to be patient with your partner as they navigate their own emotions and concerns.

Ready to talk?

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It's not about how often you have sex, or even how much you want to have sex, it's about how much you like the sex you are having.

-Emily Nagoski, author of Come as You Are

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First Session Editorial Team

The First Session Editorial Team, composed of seasoned researchers, writers, editors, and therapists, focuses on providing content that helps​ Canadians find the right therapist.